Ramos’s Historic Victory Limits Derry’s Board Tenure To One Term

(November 9)  James Ramos made history this week, becoming the first Native American in San Bernardino County history to accede to the position of county supervisor. Ramos took a commanding lead early, capturing 58 percent of the absentee ballot votes tallied before balloting from the precincts recorded on election day were received. As the precinct results were counted later in the evening of November 6 and into the morning of November 7, Ramos widened that lead, ending with 59.09 percent of the vote.
Derry, a Republican who defeated Dennis Hansberger, also a Republican, in 2008, succeeded in holding onto the Third District supervisor’s post for only one term. Derry’s victory in 2008 came when Hansberger, who had served five four-year terms as supervisor over a span of 36 years, underestimated Derry, a former Marine who had worked as a representative for former state assemblyman Fred Aguiar before successfully running for a position on the San Bernardino City Council.
The Third District is home to more than  183,000 registered voters who live in Grand Terrace and Loma Linda,  Barstow,  Highland, Redlands, Mentone, Yucaipa, Big  Bear City, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree, Twentynine Palms, Johnson Valley, Lucerne Valley, Landers  and the eastern portion of the city of San Bernardino.
In 2008, Derry was able to fund his supervisorial run with more than $50,000 provided to his campaign war chest by the county’s sheriff’s deputies’ union. Derry’s displacement of Hansberger created a division within the county’s Republican Party and earned the enmity of Hansberger, who was a prominent member of that portion of the Republican political machine based in Redlands. Hansberger, along with other members of the Redlands Republican wing, which includes district attorney Mike Ramos and Congressman Jerry Lewis, broke party ranks to endorse James Ramos, a Democrat.
James Ramos is also the former chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, a tribe of 167 members who own the San Manuel Casino near Highland. That casino generates a significant amount of money for the tribe, estimated at $400 million per year. James Ramos and the tribe have used that money to powerful effect, making political contributions and endowing charities to create a political machine of their own, which has now reached fruition with the election of Ramos to Third District county supervisor. The financial advantage enjoyed by James Ramos proved a political juggernaut, as donors who had lined up behind Derry four years ago began to rethink the wisdom of continuing to support him in the face of Ramos’s overwhelming funding advantage. A key defection crippling Derry this year was the decision of the deputies’ union to withdraw its support of him in favor of Ramos. The San Manuel Tribe, while it was chaired by Ramos, had made hefty political donations to the deputies’ union, totaling $300,000 since 2005.
Another problem besetting Derry’s reelection effort was the filing of criminal charges against him last year by the state attorney general’s office relating to what was alleged to be Derry’s attempt to launder a $5,000 donation to his electioneering fund from Highland developer Arnold Stubblefield in 2007. Those charges were based upon information gathered by investigators for the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office and included one felony count of fund laundering, one felony count of perjury and a misdemeanor count of campaign fund misreporting. The two felony counts were dismissed upon Derry’s agreement not to contest the misdemeanor charge. Though Derry would assert that the matter had been overcharged by prosecutors who were linked to district attorney Mike Ramos, a member of the Redlands political machine he had upset with his successful challenge of Hansberger in 2008, he was not able to overcome the negative publicity that attended the matter. James Ramos used Derry’s no contest plea to the campaign fund misreporting misdemeanor in his campaign, characterizing his opponent as a criminal.
While in county office Derry sponsored, supported or had a hand in three ethics reform measures that have been enacted. One of those was a county “Sunshine Ordinance,” which makes meeting records more readily accessible to the public. Another was the establishing of campaign contribution limits for county-level elected officials. The third provided for reductions in lavish benefits afforded to various elected and appointed officials.
The campaign contribution limit measure caps campaign contributions at $3,900 per election cycle effective January 1, 2013. Currently there is no limit. The State Fair Political Practices Commission is designated to investigate and enforce the new rules. The benefit reduction measure affected reductions in various retirement contributions and capped the amount of leave time that may be cashed out by affected employees.
Two days after the election, Derry told the Sentinel he was at peace with the outcome of the race. “That’s life,” he said. “We have elections for reasons. I wish James the best. I hope he does the best for our constituents, since I am one. I ran a campaign without a lot of resources and we tried to be competitive. We did everything we could and the voters made a decision.”
Alluding to the disappearance of many Third District-related documents from the office he came into in December 2008 after the departure of Hansberger, Derry said he was seeking to make a smooth transition between his administration and that of Ramos. “There won’t be file shredder’s running amok on the Fifth Floor [of the county administration building, where the supervisors’ officers are located]. I hope James will bring a lot of the projects we started to fruition.”
Ramos said that his priorities in office will be to “bring jobs to our area and grow economic opportunities, keep schools and neighborhoods safe, protect taxpayers through sound fiscal management, improve education and youth programs, and oppose the illegal fire service tax being imposed by the state in our unincorporated areas.”

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